SEASON 2, EPISODE 4
RELEASE DATE: 03/20/2021
Liam starts something new, and everything is just a little too… clean. Liam asks about the past and avoids his present. And Noel makes a joke.
VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast meant for adult listeners. You can find more information, including our full cast list and transcripts, at VALENCEpod.com. You can support us on Patreon and get access to inspo images, bonus audio, and more.
VALENCE is brought to you by Proton VPN. You can use our link at hughouse.productions/protonvpn to support this podcast and keep your data safe.
- Our theme was made by Travis Reaves,
- With production by Raul Vega.
- Additional music provided by Loyalty Freak Music and Kai Engel.
- VALENCE was created by Wil Williams.
- VALENCE is edited and sound designed by Wil Williams.
- VALENCE is directed by Katie Youmans and Anne Baird.
- VALENCE is produced by Anne Baird.
- This episode was written by Wil Williams.
Performances by, in order of appearance:
- Josh Rubino as Liam Alden and Liam’s Inner Voice,
- Giancarlo Herrera as Luis Acebo,
- Maddison Dabbs-Petty as Elisha Dawes,
- Katie Youmans as the Halo UI Voice,
- Alex Welch as Noel Alden,
- Caleb Del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
- Jordan Cobb as Sarah Harris,
- and Sable as Soap.
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[[A door handle turns and clicks open. Soft wind chimes tinkle.]]
ANNE: Brought to you by Hug House Productions
AD (Anne): This season of VALENCE is sponsored by ProtonVPN. Just like us at Hug House, ProtonVPN believes online privacy should be available to everyone, which is why their basic account is free and their app is supported on all devices. So whether you’re working at a magical tech firm, creating an anonymous blog for Muses, or just browsing the web, you can know you’re doing it safely when you use ProtonVPN. And you can do all that and help support VALENCE and Hug House by signing up for any account at hughouse.productions/protonvpn or by following the link in our show notes.
Wil: VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast with discussions and depictions of struggles with mental health. You can check our show notes, or the transcripts on valencepod dot com for a full list of content warnings and their timestamps. It’s important to take care of yourself — especially here in New Candler.
[[theme music – bright, synthy beat with airy, flowing strings that fade into a brief moment of a darker synth more reminiscent of the Season 1 theme]]
INT. THE APARTMENT BUILDING – NIGHT
LIAM’s phone rings as he anxiously stares at the ceiling. He shuffles on the bed, grabs his phone, and answers.
ELISHA: Hey, Liam.
LIAM: To what do I owe the pleasure?
ELISHA: Oh, shit, it sounds like I must have time traveled.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Is that possible?
ELISHA: Because it sounds like you’re from, like, 1805.
ELISHA: Eh? Eh?
LIAM: Alright, alright. What can . . . I . . . do ya for okay yeah I, yes, okay. You make a valid point.
ELISHA: I just wanted to say thanks for putting me in touch with Flynn for The Icarus. It–I was pretty hesitant about it at first, but it felt really good to get it all out. I think I needed to process it more than I really have been. And judging by some of the comments, it seems like it really did some good.
LIAM: Of course. I’m glad to hear it helped.
ELISHA: Are you going to write one?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE : Absolutely not.
ELISHA: A blog entry? Given, I mean . . . I mean, I know you’re a muse.
LIAM: I am.
ELISHA: And . . . like . . . I mean, we’ve all been through shit, right? I know you still have your abilities, so they didn’t do to you what they did to me, but I’m guessing you’ve still been through shit.
LIAM: I . . . have.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: It could help.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: No.
ELISHA: Okay! I guess I just assumed. Not gonna lie, I was kind of hoping to commiserate. It’s weird being the only one I know who’s gone through what I’ve gone through. Well, like, I mean . . . it’s weird to even just be the only smite I know.
LIAM: Oh–I didn’t–I didn’t realize you were a major magic user too.
ELISHA: Well, I was.
LIAM: Right. Of course. I’m sorry.
ELISHA: It’s okay. Sometimes I forget, too. It’s . . . hard.
LIAM: I can’t imagine. I used to—
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: How insensitive can you be?
ELISHA: You used to want this, right? To have it taken away? It’s okay. I’d understand.
LIAM: I–yes. I. I have, ah. Been. Been through, um, some shit. I spent most of my life wanting it to be taken away.
ELISHA: What about now?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: YES. TAKE IT AWAY TAKE IT AWAY TAKE IT AWAY
FADE IN: FLASHBACK WITH LUIS
Luis is teaching Liam to turn the `small of light` into a shape. Liam’s magic wavers and crackles in the background.
LUIS: [laughing in joy] Yes! Yes, that’s it. Okay, okay, now just concentrate harder on the shape you want to make the light. You’re almost there. Just have some confidence in yourself and it will happen.
LIAM: Are you sure?
LUIS: I’m sure!
LIAM: What if it—
LUIS: Liam, look at it. It’s harmless. We’re going to be fine.
Liam concentrates harder, and his magic bends the light into a moth.
LUIS: Yes! There, just like that. Look at it! You can’t tell me that isn’t pretty.
LIAM: It’s–okay. It’s. It’s kind of pretty.
Fade back out of flashback. Liam is still on the phone with Elisha, and she’s waiting for an answer.
LIAM: No, I don’t think I’d want it now. I don’t honestly know if that would always be my answer. But right now, no.
ELISHA: Yeah. Well. It’s cool knowing people who are trying to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. I want to be kept in the loop with things, if that’s okay. I know I’m all the way over on the opposite side of the country, but I have a pretty flexible schedule.
LIAM: Oh–what do you do?
ELISHA: Uh, right now? Well, been having a hard time in the job market what with that time it looks like I walked off my last job and ran off for a few months. But luckily a few of my sculptures sold when I, um, got back. In a perfect world, I’d just be doing my art full-time. That’s how I met Nico.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Did he try to steal her art?
ELISHA: We were in art school together.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE + LIAM: What?
ELISHA: Yeah. We were in . . . did–did he not tell you he went to art school?
LIAM: He did not.
ELISHA: Oh! Oh my god. Yeah, he’s a painter?
LIAM: He’s what
ELISHA: Like, a really good painter. We met in an art history class with a few others. We had a pretty tight little clique of queer art weirdos. We lived together for a while, even.
LIAM: A painter???
ELISHA: Yeah! I still have a few pieces. I’ll send you pictures. Is he around?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Shit.
ELISHA: Go hassle him about it! He’s still avoiding me so you gotta be the one to do it.
LIAM: He–ah–he. Isn’t. Around.
ELISHA: Got it. Sorry, man. He does this. I still don’t know why he dropped out and bailed on us all those years ago. I hope you know this doesn’t mean anything about me working with you all. This is way more important than someone who can’t figure their own shit out.
LIAM: Thank you. I’m–I’m glad to be working with you, Elisha.
ELISHA: Same to you, Liam. You still want some pictures of his art?
LIAM: If that’s alright. But–can you also send me some of yours?
ELISHA: Oh! Sure. They don’t come across too well in pictures, but I still have some I can send along.
LIAM: Thank you.
ELISHA: Yeah, for sure. Okay. I’ll take those and then I should probably call it a night–wait, what the hell? Liam, isn’t it like–like super, super late in New Candler?
ELISHA: Go to bed!
LIAM: I’ve been trying. I can’t sleep.
ELISHA: Lot on your mind?
LIAM: You could say that. I can’t talk about it here, but I start . . . a new job tomorrow. I’ll tell you more next time I meet with the team. But it’s–suffice to say I’m not really looking forward to it.
ELISHA: Hmm. Well . . . I hope it goes well.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: She wouldn’t if she knew what it was.
LIAM: As do I. Thank you, Elisha. Have a good night.
ELISHA: You too, Liam. Bye!
The two hang up.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’re going to get killed. They’re going to see through you. This whole thing is a trap. You’re not going to save Noel. Noel is going to be the one who kills you! She’s going to kill you, and you’ll deserve it.
Liam’s phone buzzes with a few alerts. Liam looks at the pictures Elisha sent.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: What the fuck? Nico painted these? What the fuck?!
LIAM: They’re . . . incredible. Ugh.
INT. HALO INC HQ – MORNING
LIAM stands in a showroom inside the Halo, Inc. HQ. There is no hum of fluorescent lights. There is a refined, clear room tone, similar to that of an art museum. The air smells somewhere between eucalyptus, pine, ozone, and nothing. Everything is a crisp bright white, shining steel, or knotted wood. Everything about the space suggests two ideas: “We’re too perfected to be human”; “Look at how organic this all is.” In the middle of the room, in front of Liam, there is a minimalist display of about 30 different Halo designs.
NOEL: These are the newest models, of course. If there’s an older design you like more, I can probably find you one, but we prefer our employees are kept current.
Noel’s heels clacking on the stone floor as she walks towards the display.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Can’t even think.
NOEL: This model from the Anon series might be up your alley. I think we still have a few in . . . hmm . . . titanium carbide.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: She’s making a joke. Make a joke back.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Can’t think.
NOEL: But the silver might suit you too. At least give you some contrast.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: You have to respond.
LIAM: Wh-ah-whatever is, um, whichever is fine. I, um.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Think better. You have to be good at this. They’re depending on you.
NOEL: Hm. Fine. We’ll go for the standard brushed stainless steel for now. You can always get a different one later if you want.
Noel opens a drawer, gets out a box, walks over to Liam, hands him the box.
NOEL: (Sternly) You’re shaking.
LIAM: Yes. Well.
NOEL: You’ll have to put the Halo on before you start working. I’m surprised they even let you into the building without one.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE : Get out of here. This is how they get you. You need to get out of here.
LIAM: [Deep breath in, deep breath out]
Liam opens the box, puts the lid down on the display, takes the Halo out, and puts it on his wrist. Nico’s magic trace fizzes out.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: . . . What?
LIAM: It–it feels like nothing.
NOEL: Yes, Liam. Did you think it was going to hurt?
LIAM: I didn’t know what it was going to feel like. I just didn’t expect it would feel like nothing.
NOEL: Well. Now that that’s done, I can show you to your office. You’ll be right next to—
Liam tries to magically summon a ball of light, but it’s gently fizzled out.
LIAM: It still feels like nothing.
NOEL: That’s the point! You can’t just do that here! Are you trying to get fired on your first day?
LIAM: I just–I just wanted to see what it felt like. It won’t happen again.
NOEL: Hm. No. It won’t. Follow me.
Noel leads Liam from the showroom to the main office to his individual office. She walks towards the showroom door, opens it, and keeps walking. Liam walks through the door, which closes behind him. In the main room, people are chattering quietly–stock walla will be fine–and typing on computers. Still no buzz of lights, still open ambiance like an art museum, just much more open in the main room.
NOEL: This is where most of the Halo Research and Development team works. You might need to come out here occasionally and ask them something, but it’s unlikely. I’ll be handling that. I’m more or less in charge of the department now that–now.
LIAM: Wait, you’re in charge of the whole department?
LIAM: You’re so young.
NOEL: What does that have to do with anything?
LIAM: No, I didn’t–I didn’t mean to be condescending. I meant to be–it–that’s impressive. And I thought that our fath– mm — Richard was the head?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You can’t save her. You should back out now—
NOEL: Yes. I’m good at what I do. And I’m only the acting head for now. We’ll see.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: –and get out of here while you still can. They’re looking at you—
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: They’re looking at her—
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: –they’re looking at you, and they’re planning what they’re going to do to you.
LIAM: (Quietly) Why are all of them looking at us like that?
NOEL: They don’t like me.
LIAM: Oh. It’s not because I—
NOEL: It’s because they don’t like me.
Liam and Noel turn a corner to a hallway
NOEL: This is where most employees eat lunch. Coffee, tea, and sparkling water are free for employees. Don’t hold onto mugs or the glass straws. A cleaning service takes care of them each day. You can leave them in your office or take them out here to the appropriately labeled bins.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Free sparkling water. Now Flynn’s really going to call you pretentious.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Don’t let yourself get comfortable enough to make jokes.
NOEL: These are some of our meeting and conference rooms. It’s unlikely you’ll need any of them.
NOEL: Because I don’t plan on inviting you to any meetings.
NOEL: And these are our offices.
Noel and Liam stop walking.
NOEL: [Pointing to each respective office] Yours, and mine.
LIAM: They’re very . . .
LIAM: Well, yes, but no, um—
NOEL AND LIAM: Exposed.
Noel walks forward and opens the office door for Liam. Liam follows, then sits behind the desk. The door closes behind them.
NOEL: Your workstation has already been set up. You unlock the computer with a fingerprint scan.
LIAM: How do you have my—
A long, uncomfortable beat.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of course.
NOEL: Today, you need to work on training and onboarding. The workstation should guide you through each step before you have access to the desktop.
NOEL: Do you have any questions?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Why are you here? Why are you doing this? Can’t you see what a nightmare this is? What are you all up to? What are you hiding? Is some part of you still in there? Why do you hate people like us? Do you hate me? I’m sorry, I’m sorry. What is your plan? Why would you hire me? What’s to gain? What’s the catch? What will it take to stop you? What will it take to save you? What will—
LIAM: Are you still in college?
NOEL: . . . What
LIAM: Well you’re, what, you’re 21 now, right?
LIAM: Did–are–are you?
NOEL: Why do you want to know?
LIAM: Because I just–I just wanted to know.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Pathetic.
NOEL: Is this some sort of weird power play or something?
LIAM: What? No, I—
NOEL: Because that’s not going to work on me.
LIAM: I just–I just wanted to know.
LIAM: I’m here, aren’t I?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Already weak. One day in, and you’re already this weak.
NOEL: Um. I–no, I graduated early and I’m skipping the ceremony so I can help run R&D.
LIAM: Where did you go to college?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You know where she went to college.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: It’s okay to want to talk to her.
LIAM: What did you major in?
LIAM: Did you like it?
NOEL: Um. It–it wasn’t too difficult.
LIAM: That’s not what I asked.
NOEL: I don’t know how to answer your question.
LIAM: Did you have a good time there? Did you like your classes? Did you like living near Boston?
NOEL: It–it was fine. It served its purpose.
NOEL: I–I took some electives in the Classics I enjoyed.
LIAM: The classics?
NOEL: Greek, Latin. Philosophy, literature, art.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Why bring that up when I asked about her business degree?
NOEL: I enjoyed those, even though they were a waste of time.
LIAM: I think that means they weren’t a waste of time.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: UGHHHHH
NOEL: Did you . . . go . . . to c—
LIAM: You don’t have to ask just to be polite. You know I didn’t.
NOEL: Get started on your onboarding. I’ll be in my office if you have questions. If you see anyone in the office with me, or if you see me on the phone, don’t bother me.
Noel leaves the office. Liam waits a moment.
Liam looks at the computer monitor.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Okay. You can do this. Just put your fingertip on the reader.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: They have your fingerprint already. And now they’re making you use it to access any of their information. They’re making you use a part of your actual body, one of the things about you that is precisely you. You’re giving them your identity as a payment.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Shut up. It’s no different from a password.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of course it is.
Liam puts his fingertip on the sensor on the trackpad. The workstation powers up: quiet hard drive whirr, computer fan.
HALO VOICE: Welcome to Halo! We’re so happy to have you on our team.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: They had to use the peppy Halo marketing voice?
HALO VOICE: We’ve got a lot of work to do today to make sure you’re ready to go with your new career at Halo, a subsidiary of Reilley Industries. Be sure to take plenty of breaks! To take a break during the onboarding process, simply click the appropriate markers on the bottom of the screen, and then click the timer button. The markers are:
Getting a beverage—
Cute UI ding
HALO VOICE: Using the restroom—
Cute UI ding
HALO VOICE: Answering a company phone call or colleague’s question in the office—
Cute UI ding
HALO VOICE: Your one-hour daily lunch break—
Cute UI ding
HALO VOICE: Or a short break. Here at Halo, we want to make sure you feel well-rested and settled in. Please note that the city of New Candler does not require daily rest breaks for workers outside of one break for lunch.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: So do they want me to take short breaks or not?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Come on. You know the answer to that.
HALO VOICE: At 5PM, we’ll automatically ask if you’d like to sign off for the day or if you need more time to complete your training. We’ll also send you occasional reminders during your training to drink some water!
Cartoony water drip
HALO VOICE: Now, let’s get started!
Halo Voice moves from SFX stereo to narration-style mono, taking the episode over for a brief monologue. Computer sounds fade out. Each question punctuated with ui ding(*) and followed by a sharp, unnatural pause.
HALO VOICE: What is your social security number?* What is your address?* What is your phone number?* What is your driver’s license number?* What is your date of birth?* What is your height?* What is your weight?* What is your hair color?* What is your eye color?*
HALO VOICE: The time is currently 5:00PM. It looks like you need more time. Shall we continue?*
The ding again.*
HALO VOICE: Good!
Liam typing on the computer slowly fades into the mix. The Halo Voice fades back into diegetic SFX versus narration.
HALO VOICE: What is your ethnicity?* What is your religion?* What are your pronouns?* Do you require any accommodations for work?*
Liam’s phone buzzes on the desk. He silences it.
HALO VOICE: What is your current relationship status?*
Liam typing continues
HALO VOICE: Congratulations, LIAM ALDEN D7ECE2. You’re now officially part of the Halo team! We’ll see you tomorrow. Your workstation will now power down.
Computer powers down, fan/hum stops. Liam picks up his phone.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: God, it’s 8:30? No wonder Flynn keeps texting.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’re a bad brother and a bad friend and a bad employee for two organizations.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Calm down. Just text Flynn back.
Liam texts Flynn back. He gets out of his chair, pushes his chair in. He leaves his office, but then stops in his tracks.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: She’s still here?
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: She looks exhausted.
Liam walks to Noel’s office, opens the door. Noel is typing.
Liam leans into the office. Noel doesn’t notice.
NOEL: [Slight gasp] Liam! What are you still doing here?
LIAM: I had to finish the onboarding.
NOEL: It took you this long?
LIAM: There was a lot of information I didn’t have.
NOEL: Oh. Right.
LIAM: And, um, it kept telling me to go drink water.
LIAM: Why are you still here?
NOEL: I’m working.
LIAM: It’s 8:30PM.
NOEL: Non sequitur.
LIAM: It isn’t. You should have gone home hours ago, right?
NOEL: I have too much to do.
LIAM: Have you eaten dinner?
NOEL: . . . No. Have you?
LIAM: No. We should—
NOEL: Don’t. We’re not there yet.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’re not the only one with trauma here. Be more empathetic.
LIAM: Right. Will you at least go home, though?
NOEL: No. And don’t tell me what to do. I’m your boss.
LIAM: I’m your older [brother]—
LIAM: Okay. You’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll–I’ll see you tomorrow?
Noel goes back to typing.
LIAM: Have a good rest of your evening.
Noel doesn’t respond.
Liam leaves the office.
INT. THE APARTMENT BUILDING – NIGHT
Liam gets his keys out of his pocket. Behind the door, Soap starts yelling.
SOAP: [in meows] I HEAR YOU. IT IS YOU.
LIAM: Yes, darling. I know.
Liam starts unlocking the door.
SOAP: YOU HAVE ARRIVED.
LIAM: Yes, yes.
Liam opens the door.
SOAP: ME!!! UP!!!
LIAM: Hello, you little terror.
Liam picks Soap up and holds her while walking into the apartment.
SARAH: Hi, Liam.
SOAP: HOW DARE YOU TOUCH ME??? PUT ME DOWN!!!
LIAM: Oh, okay, fine!
Liam puts Soap down.
SOAP: THE NERVE!
SARAH: She’s been yelling for you all day.
LIAM: Aww. Did you feed her dinner?
FLYNN: Yeah, right around the time I texted you because I figured you were dead.
LIAM: I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner. Their training took—
FLYNN: What’s that on your wrist?
SARAH: That’s not—
LIAM: Oh my god.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Take it off. Can’t move. Take it off. Take it off.
LIAM: I–I forgot I had it on.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Take it off take it off take it off take it off
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Can’t move
FLYNN: I’ve got it.
Flynn gets up from the couch, walks over to Liam, and takes the Halo off his wrist. He puts the Halo down on the end table.
LIAM: [Sighs in relief] Thank you. I don’t–I don’t know what came over me. I just couldn’t move.
SARAH: Because of the Halo?
LIAM: Yes–well, no. Because of me. It didn’t do anything to me. I was just, um. In shock, I think. That I forgot I was wearing it.
FLYNN: Oof. Well, it’s off now. You’re back home, safe, and free.
SARAH: Not free just yet. Let me put this thing somewhere it can’t listen in on us or anything.
Sarah gets up from the couch, gets the Halo, and walks down the hallway.
FLYNN: So. How was it?
LIAM: It was . . . normal. It all felt so . . . normal.
Valence is a Hug House production. You can find more information at Hug House dot Productions.
VALENCE is created by me, Wil Williams. This episode was written, edited, and sound designed by Wil Williams. This episode was directed by Anne Baird and Katie Youmans, and produced by Anne Baird.
This episode was performed by, in order of appearance:
-Josh Rubino as Liam and Liam’s Inner Voices,
-Giancarlo Herrera as Luis Acebo,
-Maddison Dabbs-Petty as Elisha Dawes
-Katie Youmans as the Halo UI Voice
-Alex Welch as Noel Alden,
-Caleb del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
-Jordan Cobb as Sarah Harris,
-and Sable as Soap
-Our theme music for season 2 was written and performed by Travis Reaves,
-with production from Raul Vega.
-Other music is provided by Loyalty Freak Music, a trans composer who rules and makes music people can use for free. You can find their work at loyaltyfreakmusic.com.
-You can find our full cast list and information on how to support this indie podcast on valencepod dot com. There, you can find a link to our Patreon, and if you support us monthly, you’ll have access to a super special edition of this podcast: the Soap Cut. It’s where instead of Sable playing Soap, *I* will play Soap, with her lines written as they are in the script instead of meows.
-Until next time, protect your magic.